Elderly man is confused by male-female interaction norms in today’s society

Published 11:00 pm Friday, August 25, 2006

Dear Annie: I am an 82-year-old grandfather and have a recent problem. At least, as far as I know, it is recent.

I used to kiss my father. I kiss my sons, nephews, brothers-in-law and sons-in-law. I hug males and females. I don’t paw. Hugs and kisses are forms of greeting to me. I hug strangers, too.

A week ago, after dinner with my children and grandchildren, I was saying goodbye to my grandson’s teenage girlfriend. She always hugs me hello and goodbye. She leaned over to give me a kiss (she is a tall girl), and I kissed and nibbled her neck. She squealed, and that was all.

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Two days later, one of my sons came over to excoriate me for patting the girl’s bottom. I don’t remember doing this. Apparently my grandson said I had. Both he and his girlfriend thought it was funny, but my son lit into me. He told me his wife said I sometimes patted her fanny. She had never felt offended. My son, however, had blood in his eye and let me have it for touching this young lady, etc.

I got tired of his tirade and told him to leave. I called my daughter-in-law and apologized. My wife spoke to her a little later, and my daughter-in-law said she never felt violated by me. My son, however, called his older brother and told the whole “sordid” story. Now, my older son says I committed a criminal offense by “fondling” this 17-year-old girl and I should stop doing this awful thing. I assured him I would keep my hands in my pockets from now on.

Am I a big, bad, senile, undocumented sex offender? — Still a Little Awed and Confused

Dear Awed and Confused: We doubt it, but still, the rules governing male-female interaction have changed, and apparently, you missed the memo. It is no longer considered appropriate to pat a woman’s behind or nibble her neck, unless she is your wife or girlfriend. It is especially egregious if the woman is underage. We’re glad your female relatives don’t mind, but one of these days, someone could decide to press charges. In the future, you’d best limit your affectionate greetings to pecks on the cheek and a brief hug.

Dear Annie: I am a 16-year-old girl, and I have a slight problem with my mother. My parents pay for my clothing, and for this reason alone, my mother feels she should accompany me any time I need new clothes.

I am very responsible and give them no reason not to trust me with their money. I don’t make enough to buy my own clothes, so how can I convince my mother to let me shop alone without sounding rude or ungrateful? — Clueless

Dear Clueless: For some mothers, shopping together is a way to bond. It also is how Mom imparts her knowledge of how to buy decent, quality clothing. So, start small. Use your allowance to buy one inexpensive item, and show it to Mom. Tell her you’re proud of yourself for picking it out on your own and you hope she approves. After doing this a few times, you can then ask Mom about handling your own shopping, but if there’s a major purchase coming up, she may still come along. Please put up with it. You’ll be doing all your own shopping soon enough.

Dear Annie: The recent letter from a female doctor who was upset because the staff called her by her first name reminded me of an incident. My uncle (a doctor) stopped by the house with a friend (also a doctor). He introduced him to my father as “Dr. Smith.” My father immediately said to call him “Salesman Doug.”

My own doctor is my age. He introduced himself to me by name, and that’s why I like him. I think that female doctor is snobby and pretentious. She should just ask the staff to use her title when patients are present. — Letter Writer Steve

Dear Steve: We disagree. The problem was that the staff only did this with the female doctors. In a professional setting, titles should be used at all times.